If you go to an art gallery, whether the National Portrait in London or your local museum, where paintings are displayed, there is something mesmerising about the human face; when an artist captures the moment of silence, of stillness or of movement, when the years are brought into focus and a person is seen as a person.
How lucky we are, those of us working in care – health or social, voluntary or NHS to have daily access to people, those in need, asking direction, telling their story or seeking an answer.
We are provided with a tableau that is the human expression exposed, at its most intimate and vulnerable.
If you look closely and determine the evolution of a smile, or the demi-frown that accompanies a look of puzzlement, you are there; your feelings and senses become momentarily synchronised with that of another. Time stops and the weight of years falls away;
The moment, a patient is lost in laughter, whether through song, or reminiscence, when they drift away from the present – the pain, the fevers, the rigors and anxiety & drift off into another time, where they become ageless, when 80 or 90 year of life falls away like stardust and they are transformed into their essence – the comedic, the wistful, the cheeky or slapdash, when their personalities emerge from the concretion of life, the worries, the woes, the losses and memories – seized by the moment, transfixed by the joy of the happening.
My patients fall into happiness.
The other week I was talking with the relative of a patient and she reflected how her mum was constantly in the present; her memory had withered; the past, the future was as imaginary as her ability to retain a consideration or a notion – she commented that this was something most people spent their lives seeking.
Mindfulness and Dementia; these are two areas that have attracted much attention of late – how many of us would happily shed the worry of the past or of the future for an ever-present? How many of us would part with the past?
The past is a sustaining force that helps us weather the times of challenge, that helps us feel better about ourselves and our lives, when times are hard; my most precious possessions are photographs of my past – they help me relive a world that has gone, but is still there, waiting, safe and protected.
How many of us would allow those memories to slip away and be replaced by the present?
We would need some sort of assurance – a memory insurance policy – and that is why, I suspect, so many of us are up in arms about the government’s management of the NHS – this vulnerable spirit which safeguards our present and allows us access to the past.
Health and social care is filled with people trying their best – we need to support each other to allow those we treat, those we care for, to feel safe and secure in their present.